Barclays Premier League Under-18s
Manchester United vs. Aston Villa
Venue: Aon Training Complex
Date: Saturday, 21 March 2015
Kick-off: 12:00 GMT
Harry McKirdy gave the Villains the lead, before substitute Demetri Mitchell’s 83rd minute equaliser salvaged a point for the Red Devils.
United were fortunate not to fall behind in the opening minute, as a Villa free-kick flicked off Axel Tuanzebe’s head and struck the post.
Another Villa free-kick from a similar position on the left-hand side was cleared but only as far as Rory Hale, who took a touch to set before firing a half-volley wide of the post.
The pressure from the away side was rewarded as Andre Green’s through ball found the run of McKirdy in the left-hand channel, and he finished in style, in similar fashion to Marouane Fellaini’s goal against Spurs for United’s first team last week.
Callum Gribbin’s ball into the feet of Marcus Rashford led to a neat turn from the number nine, but his snap shot was straight at Charlie Bannister, as Villa’s keeper parried the ball before they cleared their lines.
Devonte Redmond’s through ball found Zak Dearnley whose cross wasn’t dealt with by Ben Swift, but Redmond’s half-volleyed shot from the loose ball fell just wide.
Gribbin’s free-kick from the left fell onto the top of the net before a positive run from Ruairi Croskery was halted inside the box, as United headed into half-time trailing.
After the interval and Green’s cross was turned behind by Tyler Reid before a wild shot from Hale flew well wide.
Hale was involved again, firstly being dispossessed by Croskery, whose shot was held by Bannister, before he smashed the ball against the back of Gribbin’s head when he was already down on the ground. The whistle had already gone and there was nowhere for Hale to kick the ball anyway, so the intention was there to see, but he escaped with just a warning, much to the displeasure of United players and fans alike.
A promising move from United involving Gribbin, Reid and Jordan Thompson led to the latter spreading the play to Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, who stretched to meet the ball as he played a give-and-go with Mitchell, but the left-back’s shot fell just wide of the far post.
It was Mitchell who missed United’s next chance, and what a chance it was. Another neat move, this time involving Redmond, Rashford and Gribbin led to the latter’s ball across the six yard box falling to Mitchell at the back post, but he put the ball wide with the goal gaping.
It was a quiet second half for Dean Henderson but he was forced to hold Hale’s free-kick and a shot on the turn from Rushian Hepburn-Murphy.
After a spirited showing in the second period, United were rewarded for their endeavours as a short corner routine led to a half-hearted penalty appeal as Gribbin went to ground, but that was waved away but the ball eventually fell to Mitchell, who made amends for his earlier sitter, as he fired the ball into the top corner from close range.
That goal sparked the hosts into life, as Gribbin’s shot was deflected over the bar before he and Mitchell saw shots blocked amongst a handball claim.
Khalid Abdo was then booked for the visitors as the game ended all square.
Four points from a possible six represents a good start for United in the play-off tier, and another late goal to add to Thompson’s stoppage time winner down at West Brom last week shows the fighting spirit amongst Paul McGuinness’ side.
A trip to Tottenham awaits this time next week, where United will look to rectify their FA Youth Cup defeat to Spurs, from back in February.
Manchester United: Henderson; Reid, Tuanzebe, Fosu-Mensah, Borthwic-Jackson; Redmond, Thompson (Scott 77); Dearnley (Mitchell 54), Gribbin, Croskery; Rashford.
Subs: Scott, Byrne, Mitchell, Hamilton, Whelan.
Manager: Paul McGuinness
Aston Villa: Bannister; Linley, Lyons-Foster, Swift, Hailey; Hale, Abdo; McKirdy (Strain 60), O’Hare, Green; Hepburn-Murphy.
Subs: Strain, Forth, Sundman, Taylor, Clarke.